5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

Leadership Ahead

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is:

Forgetting that everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

People are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully, they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

If you want to lead people who are different from you…and you should…you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led. Frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would that environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership, that people are different, you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like that term much, because I’m a leader in training too, but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities. One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person, even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me that everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions. Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assuming agreement by silence. I want to know, as best as I can, not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this, I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, that some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found that approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Welcoming input. This probably should have come first, but this is a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team. Even the kind of information that hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep candy in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Structuring for expression of thought. Here I am referring to the DNA…the culture…for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders that encourages people to think for themselves. That kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

When the Dominant Question is Why

troubled young woman

“All I want is a reasonable answer —– then I will keep quiet.” Job 6:24

Job just wanted to know why.

Has that ever been your question?

If you know the story of Job then you know that he is the “poster child” of suffering in the Bible. Job lost everything; his children, his wealth, his health, and even the support of a loving wife. God allowed the Devil to bring suffering on Job to the severest point of pain, stopping only short of taking Job’s life.

That alone has a series of “Why” questions attached to it.

Job just wanted to know why. He simply wanted a sincere, reasonable answer.

You should know Job had lived a righteous life. He was one of the good guys.

Have you ever heard the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I am not sure that question didn’t originate with Job.

Job didn’t think sin had caused his pain. He didn’t believe that God was a harsh God. He also knew God as a loving God, so Job knew his suffering wasn’t a result of the meanness of God. As hard as he tried to understand and find answers nothing made sense. There appeared to be no reason.

The fact is, Job’s dilemma is often are ours. We can’t always understand the ways of God. We can try, but there will be situations and circumstances in life that simply will not make sense to us. We can know that God will work all things for good. We can know that He will never leave us nor forsake us, because those are promises He has made. We can even know that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

We may never know the answers to our questions of why.

Instead of trying to resolve the unanswered questions, I wonder if our goal should be otherwise. I wonder if our goal should be to trust in the God who does understand.

I wonder if the solution is not to question as much as to simply rest in the sufficiency of God. I know. That is hard to do, but over time, as we experience God more, our resolve through the trials of life should become more of repentance and rest and quietness and trust. This is where our strength will be found. (Isaiah 30:15)

Lord; grow us towards total dependence on You through times of life we cannot understand.

Have you ever been in a place where you had more questions than answers?

When You Allow Others to Help You…


When you allow someone to help you…

When you are in pain…

When you are in the midst of a trial…

Don’t forget…

It may be therapy for the person who helps you.

We often resist help.

We are too proud. We don’t want to be an inconvenience. We want to appear strong.

But, we ignore the help the helper gains from the helped.

When an injured pastor helps another injured pastor…

It helps him heal.

When a cancer survivor ministers to a cancer patient…

Their heart heals a little.

A parent who lost a child….

Is best equipped to minister to someone who has lost a child.

And, it often gives a slight sense of meaning to their loss.

It doesn’t remove the pain, but it often helps one deal with pain better when they help others in pain.

Those are just a few examples.

You can add many others.

Many times we gain perspective on our pain when we help others deal with their pain.

Don’t be afraid of help.

Opening your life to others…helps.

Sometimes more than you know.

3 Critical Learning Environments

success learn lead

I believe in lifetime learning. The best leaders I know are always learning something new.

If you’ve followed this blog long you know I tend to like simplification. Some would say over-simplification. I like information presented in an easy to understand and follow format.

So…if you want to be a lifetime learner…

Here 3 learning environments:

Learning by experience – This is where you learn by doing. It could be during success or failure. Life is a great teacher. You can’t necessarily avoid this one. It happens. You do get to choose your reactions to the experience you learn. Choose well.

Learning by influence – This is where mentoring takes place. It’s gaining insight through another person’s wisdom, often gained by their experience or education. You can easily avoid this one. Ignore help. Dismiss advice or constructive criticism. Or, you can welcome input. Find mentors. Glean from others. Let iron sharpen iron. Choose well.

Learning by education – This can be classroom or text book learning. It may be at a conference or seminar. It’s acquiring more academic knowledge. This is a choice too. Choose well.

That’s the three I’ve experienced in my journey. All three have been vital to shaping who I am as a person, pastor and a leader. I have learned I must be intentional if I’m going to continually be learning in each of these ways.

Which one are you missing most at this time? Do you need to better learn from your own experience? Do you need to find a mentor? Do you need to take a class or start reading more?

I’d strongly recommend you not miss any of the three.

Are there other learning environments I failed to mention?

The Quickest Way to Spur Change


Do you want to know the fastest way to encourage change?

Expose leaders to new ideas.

In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change.

Often faster than any other way.

I’ve tried to practice this as a leader. That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs and podcasts. We often read books together as a staff.

As long as people are allowed to dream…and the leader doesn’t have to control everything…when the team is introduced to new ideas…ideas produce energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens. Quickly. It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks. Slight improvements. Small adjustments. Those can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team. There is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.

Recently, our staff took this principle to a new level. We used training budget and our ministerial staff and spouses traveled to Asheville, NC. We went to learn from Biltmore Baptist Church. Pastor Bruce Frank is leading an exceptional team at a church several times larger than our church. Like Immanuel, they are an older established church, but they have figured out some things we are still learning. We toured the church and then each staff member at Immanuel met with their counterpart staff member at Biltmore. We asked questions and explored their story. It was insightful.

It is an experiment. Honestly, I’m not sure how it will work yet, but I’m sure of one thing. It exposed us to some new ideas. We have some immediate changes we are considering. Our team bonded. And, there is new energy and momentum developing. That has to produce some good.

And, that’s a win for me.

Do you want to encourage to encourage change quickly? Expose your team to some new ideas.

How does your team encourage change?

Pray and Don’t Give Up


Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1

Our example comes from Jesus!

We should pray and not give up!

What are you facing today, which you have been facing for some time?
What in your life needs a touch of God?
For what have you been waiting to hear a word from God?
Is there something you can’t handle on your own?
Is there some special request only God can answer?

Jesus would say, “Pray and don’t give up!”

Now, you need to understand, God is not going to contradict Himself. His character never changes. So, if you are asking God to let you have an affair, or to help you cheat on your taxes, don’t expect to get what you want!

But, if your request doesn’t conflict with Scripture, if it isn’t sinful, and it will give glory to God, go ahead and ask expectantly! Pray, and keep on praying until God gives you an answer. Don’t give up!

In my experience, and with what I read in the Word of God, He will either grant you your request (in His time) or His reason for “No” will be far better than what you could have received by a yes answer. Also, it is important to remember that God deals in terms of eternity, not within our finite world.

If you have started to waver from your request in recent days, Jesus reminds you, “Don’t give up!”

God, the great Father, loves to give good gifts to His people.

What is one prayer you consistently have before God?

(By the way, this is a repost from a few months ago. I sensed it was needed again.)

Ministry Briefing: A New Resource for Pastors and Church Leaders

Bill Hybels is fond of saying that “leaders are readers.” I think we all instinctively know that this is true, and recognize our need to be constantly learning how to be better leaders. At the same time, ministry leaders are constantly in a time crunch as we lead meetings, meet with church members, preach, and care for our family. Add to that the sheer volume of content that is at our disposal, and it can be difficult to know where to start!

Enter, Ministry Briefing.

Every month Todd Rhoades and Matt Steen sift through thousands of newspaper articles, blog posts, studies, and stories to find those that are most helpful for ministry leaders. Each edition of Ministry Briefing is made up of executive summaries of over one hundred articles covering current events, trends, and helpful info for those who serve the church. So, what does this look like? Here are three examples:

  • Harvard Professor: America is Still a Very Religious Country: According to Harvard University professor, Robert Putnam, even though recent studies show that the number of Americans that claim no religious affiliation is at an all time high, religious commitments are “incredibly stronger than in most other advanced countries in the world. The average American is slightly more religious than the average Iranian, so we are a very religious country even today.” Source: Religion News Service
  • Marketing to Christians Aids in Les Miserables Success: Grace Hill Media, a company which does targeted marketing within the Christian community, has been credited with some of the success of the latest version of Les Miserables. Targeting those with a “bully pulpit”, founder Jonathan Bock explained a strategy that involved inviting influential Christians to private screenings in hopes that they will spread the word about the movie. Bock suggests that a movie this size would spend anywhere between $30 and $130 million on marketing, and campaigns like the ones he ran cost upward of seven figures. Source: CNN Belief Blog
  • Poll: Homosexual Behavior Gaining Moral Ground: A recent study by LifeWay Research finds that only 37% of those polled say that homosexuality is a sin. That’s down 7% from the 44% who called homosexual behavior a sin just last year. In total, 45% of those polled say that ‘homosexual behavior’ is not sinful. Also trending: the number of people who support marriage equality for gays and lesbians. That number now stands at 63%. Source: Religion Dispatches

Ministry Briefing is released during the first week of every month, and works for your Kindle, Nook, or pdf reader. Use the code edmondson to receive $3 off the February edition when you download it here.

Something I’ve Learned about Pastors and Leaders


Here is something I’ve learned about pastors and leaders…first hand…

We often let the few negatives overshadow the many positives.

Things can be going great, but we can get one negative email…and the whole day is ruined.

We can miss the blessings God is providing by focusing on the distractions of a few critics we may never please…regardless of what we do.

Am I alone in that?

Understanding this about myself (and anyone else who will admit it), changes the way I view some Scripture.

Consider one of our “go to” favorite verses of encouragement, Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord , plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Put it in the context that it was delivered. Notice Vs. 10

For thus says the Lord : When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”

What do you think the people heard?

Don’t you think they heard the “seventy years” more than they heard the “future and hope“? Yet, which would you think was God’s intent…to encourage or discourage? (Hopefully, you know the God who is love enough to answer that correctly.)

Everything can be going according to plan. God can be working in your life, but the critic can destroy your perception of reality.

That’s why, as leaders, it’s important that we keep our mind on the bigger picture of what God is doing, rather than the voices of the negative minority.

Who is brave and honest enough to admit I’m not alone here?